Can’t actually remember the last time we were in North Berwick but it was certainly some years ago. On this visit, if it wasn’t for the fact that we know better, we would say that everyone in town was more than a little devious, Machiavellian even … you know who you are! But that’s another story. North Berwick itself is a lovely little seaside town with lots of art galleries, craft shops, restaurants and cafes. It consists almost entirely of rather grand Victorian houses and is surrounded by golf courses … and, to top it all off, not content with one beach, North Berwick has two. It was called North Berwick to distinguish it from South Berwick (now Berwick-on-Tweed) which, at one time was in Scotland rather than England. In the 16th century the town was a hotbed of witchcraft with many more witches being tried here than anywhere else. One Agnes Sampson was accused of making a potion which made the seas rough for King James VI and his new wife, Anne of Denmark on their return voyage to Scotland. In 1591 she was tortured until a confession was obtained then burned at the stake. Thankfully there’s not so much of that sort of thing going on these days, or at least we did not see anything like that on our visit.The tiny Buttercup Cafe is in the centre of town and has just a four tables and a serving counter. The predominant decor is surf boards. Now although the waves just a few meters from the door were definitely big enough for surfing the temperature, at a smidgen above freezing, definitely was not … brrrr! The welcome here though was very warm and we were soon kitted out with a fruit and a plain scone and offered a wide range of jams to go with them. They were nicely presented and each scone came with a generous pot of clotted cream .. what’s not to like? Nothing as it happens but we eventually decided that, wonderful as they were, the scones were not quite topscones … shame. Isn’t it wonderful how, with no proof whatsoever, Putin has been branded public enemy number one because of the Sergei Skripal affair. We are not taking Putin’s side, far from it, but we do think he has good reason to more than a little disgruntled at the actions of the West recently and May’s refusal to provide him with a sample of the deadly toxin is impolite if not Machiavellian. In fact, knickers have become so twisted that Brexit has barely got a mention recently … gosh, who would have thought it!
p.s. This K6, constructed in the Lion Foundry, Kirkintilloch was found at the west end of the High Street in North Berwick. It had been converted for use as a cash machine but retained an outside telephone … for very small people??
Yesterday morning we were back at the Hippodrome in Bo’ness to see The Shape Of Water … an unexpectedly enjoyable film. It’s really a love fantasy but it also turns out to be surprisingly topical. The Americans had captured a unique South American water monster with peculiarly human characteristics … honestly, it’s better than it sounds! Rather than let the US acquire any advantage by studying the beast and unearthing its secrets the Russians, in the form of KGB agents, plotted to kill it with a lethal injection. Have you heard of any similar stories recently? It is amusing to see the media in a frenzy wondering where the nerve agents directed against Sergei Skripal and his daughter could have come from without ever mentioning the world’s biggest stockpile of such chemical weapons at Porton Down … only eight miles from Salisbury where Skripal was found. All fingers seem to be pointing at Vladimir Putin however and probably with good reason. Have you noticed a rather worrying trend among world leaders recently? Putin, who unexpectedly came to power because Boris Yeltsin hadn’t enough blood in his vodka system, now finds himself drunk on power itself. He has manufactured a situation where he can remain in power indefinitely. Likewise with President Xi of China. Power is a great corrupter and both men now seem to think that they are omnipotent. Meanwhile, back in the USA, President Trump knows he is omnipotent but, unlike Putin and Xi, hasn’t yet worked out a scam to keep the job for a life … watch this space. Theresa May on the other hand will be forced to keep her job for life whether she likes it or not simply because it’s such a mess no one else wants it. Enough of all that. Just across the road from the Hippodrome is the imaginatively named Brian’s Cafe which, would you believe it, is owned by a chap called Brian, surname Curry. Its outward appearance is somewhat uninspiring and we did not have high hopes as we entered. The interior is pleasant enough though and the staff were very friendly and helpful. We were soon settled down with some tea and sharing a fruit scone … okay, we sometimes indulge in reckless extravagance! There was no cream and the butter and jam were prepackaged but the scone itself was very good, not quite a topscone but pretty close. The café has lots of what appeared to be family photographs hanging on the walls and when we asked about them we ended up being introduced to Brian himself who had been sitting at another table with some friends. He’s a lovely guy who proceeded to take us round and explain his family history. Turns out that he is part of the Serafini family who not only had a cafe in Bo’ness but operated the York Café in Falkirk, a place we know very well.
What amazed us was that Brian’s aunt, a Bo’nessian born and bred, had married a Serafini and as a result was interned during WWII. It had never before occurred to us that Scots were also interned simply because of their association with Italians … unbelievable!
It was great listening to the many delightful childhood stories Brian had to tell … a far cry from today’s world of all-powerful autocrats and dastardly subterfuge.
p.s. News of an even bigger controversy came to us the other day courtesy of our correspondent, the Stenibrainfart. He reported that the National Trust in England had organised a cream tea at one of their venues in Cornwall and to publicise it they used a picture of a scone with a dollop of jam on top of the cream … arrgghh! Now all self respecting sconeys worth their salt know that that is how they do it in Devon … and it’s just plain wrong! It is definitely not how they do it in Cornwall and Cornish folks have reportedly been resigning their NT membership in droves. They felt so strongly they even produced #JamFirst badges to support the cause. Well done Cornwall, you tell ’em!
by Bill and Pat Paterson and is about finding good scones throughout the world, with a little bit of politics